Most wikis only go to 10, mine goes to 11

I read this puff piece on a Portland company (via techmeme) that is hosting a wiki about other websites. Yeah, you read that right… the business is a wiki that has information about websites. The only reason I’m bothering to write about this is to point out how press release journalism does no favors for companies or readers.

Ray King hasn’t had a home run yet. But investors in his newest venture, AboutUs Inc., think King could be building the next Google.

King’s Portland company has just closed a $1 million initial financing round for its wiki, or collaboratively created Web site, listing the names of Web sites and information about them.

I don’t get it and I’m disappointed that the writer of this piece didn’t come out and say the same thing.

First of all, the great majority of the market doesn’t want to add content to a wiki. Take a look at any of the wiki pages attached to Amazon product pages, like this page for a canon powershot camera that has over 100 customer reviews but the product wiki page is empty. I picked this one page because there are 114 user reviews of this product but zero content in the wiki, clearly reviewers prefer one format over the other for some reason. Perhaps it’s the nature of a review to be first person and opinion rather than a wiki page which is supposed to be authoritative. Note to journalists covering tech, ask the question here about what the incentive is for people to contribute and when Ray King answers, say “I don’t get it” and make him answer it again.

Secondly, as it relates to the company profiled in the attached article, it is all built on Mediawiki, which in itself is a very capable wiki platform but has a terrible editor. This alone certainly doesn’t doom Mediawiki but if your business is dependent upon attracting user generated content then one would have to make the assumption that a user friendly authoring environment is a requirement. Also, if you are building a business on top of Mediawiki, would you not at least skin it to make it look like a branded site? Before anyone comments back that “oh but wikipedia is built on Mediawiki and they have no problems with the editor”, I think you need to sit back and take a deep breath while considering the fact that wikipedia was first and that gives them a lot of latitude in terms of features and usability. If wikipedia were to start at ground zero today competing with another wikipedia already established then usability, specifically ease of use, would factor in greatly. Note to journalists covering tech, use the product/service in question and form an opinion about it as a user.

The writer of this piece also says that web 2.0 is a technology where web sites “invite participation from users, and Web technology is used for collaboration and communication,” but then goes on to call Google the “mother of all web 2.0 companies” that is a profitable “multiline business” blah blah blah. So I can live with the web 2.0 stuff and Google being the “mother” and so on, but the last time I checked Google is like 99% advertising when you look at revenue so to call it a “multiline business” may be more than a little generous. Note to journalists covering tech, we’re all getting tired of the “it’s like Google” comparisons.

Finally, there is this juicy quote from one of the investors in speaking about wikis in general and the founder of the company:

While freely admitting he doesn’t use wikis, and doesn’t really understand them, “Ray is a very intelligent guy, and people are finding the site,” Holce said.

Note to journalists covering tech, if an investor tells you they don’t use the product or even understand them, ask him/her why the hell they invested.

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7 thoughts on Most wikis only go to 10, mine goes to 11

  1. You expect hard hitting controversial journalism from the Portland Business Journal? 🙂

    Not to be too cheeky, but seriously, Business Journals are the equivalent of the local Chamber of Commerce w/ nothing but promotion in mind.

  2. you are absolutely right, but with the advent of things like techmeme these pubs are getting more exposure and that means they need to step up their game.

    This caught my attention because of the investor quote at the end, I just couldn’t believe the reporter did throw in a WTF when the guy said he doesn’t know anything about the technlogy he just invested in.

  3. I didn’t even make it to the investor quote before thinking WTF myself and moving on. Thanks for persevering, though, and further validating my reaction.

  4. was also covered in TechCrunch, but I suspect that was a favor to the CEO and to Keith Teare, who is an investor. I believe that King and Teare worked with Mike Arrington while he was at RealNames.

  5. Pingback BusyTonight Corporate Weblog » Blog Archive » In Defense of
  6. I don’t get it either — but it did say the site has shot to Alexa ~ 1,100ish range after launching just several months prior. (unless it was launched in August of 2005, couldn’t quite tell from the article)

    Going to Alexa ~ 1,100 after a few months is no small feat. YouTube didn’t even pull that off. (hmm. makes me think the numbers don’t quite add up then)

  7. they are using a bot to scrape all that data. I would speculate that is integral to their alexa bump. Think about it for a second… if the site had that kind of reach wouldn’t more people have been talking about it?

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